How a Netflix Series Revived the Career of Latin Pop Icon Luis Miguel

Luis Miguel
Omar Cruz

Luis Miguel

Three questions have dominated the summer in Mexico:

Who will be the country’s next president? 

How far will the Mexican soccer team advance in the World Cup? 

And: ¿Dónde está Marcela, la mamá de Luis Miguel? (Where is Marcela, Luis Miguel’s mom?)

The first two questions have answers. Mexico elected its next president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on July 1, and hours later the national soccer team was eliminated in the World Cup's second round on July 2.

Question three, however, remains unanswered, and may never be. But thanks to a hit TV show, anticipation for a possible reveal of what happened to Marcela Basteri, the missing mother of pop icon Luis Miguel, has become a pervasive topic of conversation on social media, radio, and news outlets throughout Mexico and much of Latin America.

Audiences are hopeful that an explanation for Basteri’s disappearance will emerge during the final episode of Luis Miguel, la serie ("the series"), which will air Sunday night on Telemundo in the U.S. and on Netflix in Latin America and Spain. As the popular biographical series -- which began in April and stars Diego Boneta as Miguel -- has neared its conclusion, each episode has teased new hints and information about Basteri’s final days in 1986, when she disappeared and was never heard from again.

“The series brings back fond memories for the generation that grew up with Luis Miguel, and at the same time explains his story to a younger generation,” says Miriam Grunstein, a Mexico City-based lawyer and academic who has been following the series and who frequently posts on Twitter about it. “I can’t imagine his mother will appear, as that would be contradictory to the true story, but the hope that we will learn what really happened has everyone captivated.”

Luis Miguel has also proven to be a case study in how to jump start a slumping career. Though he has been one of Mexico and Latin America’s biggest pop stars since the 1980s, the career of “El Sol de México” (The Sun of Mexico), as he is known, appeared to be setting in recent years. In 2015, he was widely criticized for his weight gain and a last-minute cancelation of a concert in Mérida, where thousands of fans awaited his performance at the arena. He later aborted plans for tour stops in several other Mexican cities.

Legal troubles also cast a shadow over Luis Miguel’s career. He was arrested last year in Los Angeles after failing to pay more than $1 million owed to a former manager. (The lawsuit was later settled.) He was also sued in 2017 by Star Productions, the agency that represents Mexican singer Alejandro Fernández, for failure to complete a tour. (They resolved the dispute last December.) In 2013, the mother of two of his children sued for outstanding alimony payments. (They reached an agreement in 2015.)

Luis Miguel has numbed those difficult years and reminded fans across the region of why they first fell for him in the ‘80s, opening the door to the intimate life of a star known for being fiercely private.

Each week on the series, “Mickey,” as he is known by family and friends, sings a hit from his teen or adolescent days. Doing so has evoked nostalgia among fans across Mexico and the region, and suddenly Luis Miguel songs that are more than 30 years old are being played in taxis, restaurants, and even during rain delays at sporting events in Mexico City.

“The series has brought people so much closer to Luis Miguel and has allowed a younger generation to see him as someone they can identify with, much more so than previously," says Alejandra López, a 29-year-old analyst in Mexico City and a former journalist at Mexico's Reforma newspaper. "There has been a renewed interest with new generations because he is again current .... We can all sing ‘La Incondicional’ or ‘Culpable o no,’ but now that you know the story behind them, you listen with more interest and enjoyment. Now you want to listen to these songs 20 times or on loop because you feel a connection to the story behind the song.”

Shortly after the Netflix series began, rerecorded versions of Luis Miguel hits on Spotify erupted, and plays of Luis Miguel’s music soared by 200 percent in the week’s following the series premiere. Currently, five of his catalog songs are on Spotify’s Mexican Top 50 chart, including “Culpable o no,” featured prominently in the series.

In the U.S., Luis Miguel's music has not been on the charts since his most recent album, Mexico por Siempre!, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart last December. And although the series has averaged 776,000 viewers a week since it started airing in April, according to Nielsen -- a solid number -- its viewership still falls short of that of other Telemundo series like El señor de los cielos and Sin senos si hay paraiso

Still, Luis Miguel continues to enjoy a renaissance period in his stardom. His concerts sold out in Miami and New York’s Madison Square Garden last month, and he was the recipient of write-in votes to be Mexico’s President on July 1. The hashtag #LuisMiguelLaSerie has been trending for weeks on Twitter.

When MGM Studios announced a joint venture with Gato Grande Productions to acquire the exclusive life rights to Luis Miguel in 2016, the singer was quoted in the statement as saying: "It has taken me a long time to want to tell my story and I have been looking for the right team to tell it the way it should be told.” 

It would appear the decision has turned out well for El Sol de México. 

Juan Carlos Polanco/Netflix
Paula Davila and Diego Boneta in Luis Miguel La Serie